At the most basic level, yes, players depend on the league for their needs. They depend on those paychecks so they can pull up to the field in their Rolls Royces and go home to their multi-million-dollar mansions. They depend on the league for their happiness because football has been their entire life. Football is what they love. Football is what they do. It defines them as a man. That’s why you’d think it would be in their best interest to follow the rules. But it comes as no surprise when players break them. They feel they can. No one has ever told them no. Not in high school. Not in college. They’ve always been the stars. They do no wrong. Coaches, teams, the league need them on the field in peak condition, so just don’t do anything too obvious to mess up. Draw the public’s attention, whether it be a video knocking out a woman, or tweets describing the star quarterback yelling obscenities, and now they’ve crossed the line. Get the attention of the league, the university and now someone is forced to take action.
But why now? Why all of a sudden are players getting put on an exempt list, being suspended or deactivated? These domestic violence or child abuse cases didn’t just start happening a few weeks ago. The league has been turning a blind eye because as much as the players depend on the league, the league depends on the players — for sponsorship dollars, to put butts in stadium seats and to attract eyeballs to the television screen. After all, without players, there is no league. The bigger the player, the bigger the brand. The way the NFL has handled the off-the-field drama has been ridiculous. It’s more frustrating than a fourth quarter Cutler collapse (I didn’t even think that was possible). To be smart enough to manage a league worth billions of dollars and yet at the same time, so dumb to not even know how to discipline grown men acting like children is embarrassing. The player-NFL relationship has clearly become a dysfunctional one. It’s time for some players to take a break, for leaders to take a step back and think about what they’ve done and, if necessary, seek treatment so they can do what’s “right…” the first time.